A tribute to Southland’s most famous elephant

Despite being a world away from where you’d expect to find an elephant, Southland can lay claim to being the final resting place for one of the most special of animals.

Sally was one of nine Asian elephants on tour with the Bullen Brothers Circus which made a stop in Riversdale in 1960.

After being unloaded and leashed at a railway siding, Sally stepped away and drank from a nearby drum which previously contained weedkiller and despite the efforts of her circus family and local residents, she collapsed and died.

Last Friday a special plaque was unveiled in tribute to Sally to commemorate her life and the special place she holds in the Southland community.

Southland District Councillor Brian Dillon came up with the idea for the memorial and said it was important to remember a unique piece of Southland history.

“I vaguely remember the incident and several months ago I sort of had a thought that we should do something to actually note that down as something that’s happened in the history of the district. So I thought if we came up with a bit of a plaque or something just to commemorate it in the spot where it’s buried so that’s what I’ve done really.”

He said it was one of the more interesting things he has been involved in as a councillor.

“It’s just something that’s happened in the town in history. Nobody else in Southland can lay claim to having an elephant buried there.”

This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here

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